A lot of the discussion on this site is about the role of SEO in attracting new business opportunities. I thought I might be interesting to highlight some of the business benefits of SEO, particularly when compared to other SEM strategies.
What bigger business case can there be but increased sales?
What is SEO?
This is covered in our discussion What is SEO?. The quick summary might be about the steps you take to improve the position of the website in the search engine search results. It covers such things as:
- improving the content on the pages
- adding new pages full of rich content
- adding a site map or eliminating frames to help the search engines find all your content
You can read some more of these ideas elsewhere on this site, but it all comes down to making the site more attractive to the search engines and by inference to the people who use the search engines looking for a product or service like yours. So SEO can lead to more people visiting your site.
Traffic goes up, but how does that turn into sales?
Nearly every organisation that follows a structured marketing plan will be aware of a conversion rate. How many sales you get for every door you knock on or for every flyer you drop in letterboxes or how many sales you get from phone calls you make.
Your website is no different. A percentage of all visitors to your website will make some engagement with your site, be it sign up for a newsletter, call the 1800 number shown on every page or send an email using the email address shown or the contact form you provide. This is a website conversion. You still have a little work to do to turn this contact into a sale, but your traditional sales effort can take over from here and you already know how many sales you can expect from sales enquiries.
Every industry and every website is unique. So it is not possible to give hard numbers here. How about we assume about 1 in 10 visitors to your site makes contact and let's say your sales force converts 3 out of 10 enquires. On these numbers for every 100 new visitors to the website you should be able to predict 3 sales. Will 3 sales improve your bottom line? That depends on your product price and your margin. For big ticket items, 3 sales may be very significant.
Some "experts" suggest traffic that comes from search engines has a higher sales conversion rate than other forms of marketing. While the hard evidence is a little thin on the ground, this theory has some intuitive appeal. People who are searching for product related terms - "waterbeds", "wedding cars", "pest control", etc seem more likely to be already interested in that type of product and are ready to make a decision but are shopping for specific information - price, service area, stock availability, etc. So if your website comes up early in the search results and has good information presented in a well laid out format you may be in a strong position to convert that sale opportunity
Maybe I can get some extra sales, but at what cost?
One of the major advantages SEO has over PPC arrangements such as Google AdWords, is that there is no natural limit to its potential. I might need to qualify that statement a little. For PPC you set a dollar limit - a budget, either per day or per month or per annum. When those funds run out that source of traffic stops. On the other hand SEO works night and day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks per year, every year. Even better it is not limited to the specific PPC source in which you have invested. Its benefits are seen in all major search engines and some of the minor ones.
There are limits:
- The number of people searching for your product is finite, even if it is a very large number. In reality you may be marketing to a limited geographic region (perhaps you can only provide your service in your local area) or provide a niche service. Therefore the pool of potential customers is limited.
- Just because on average you have jumped 25 places in the search engines and are now in front of a couple of your competitors, there is nothing stopping those competitors improving their websites to try to regain some of their lost ground.
These limits are much more flexible than when your budget at Google runs out or a PPC competitor outbidding you. At these times your ads will simply disappear.
The actual cost to perform the SEO steps will vary depending on the industry / competition and the effectiveness of the current site. Another factor is the amount of traffic you want to achieve. To give a realistic cost estimate we would need to analysis your situation. In most cases even a small investment in SEO will pay dividends.
Anything else you want to tell me?
There are a couple of things that you need to be aware of:
- SEO does require on-going maintenance as we discuss in Is SEO just "set and forget"?
- SEO does not come with guaranteed results. We can only guarantee the level of our effort. PPC campaigns are sometimes guaranteed because they involve making payments directly to the search engines.
Hopefully this discussion has given you some food for thought, but if you have any questions on this subject, please contact us and we'll try to help.